November 22, 2014

Rain and snow

Propane gas shortage hits homeowners hard


Linden’s Propane in LaGrange says suppliers are having to travel farther because of a propane gas shortage caused by this winter’s record-breaking cold. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

As if the wicked cold and seemingly never-ending snowfall aren’t enough, propane gas — that commodity used by many in rural areas to heat their homes — is in short supply this year.

That means it is a lot more costly, too.

“It has been the proverbial perfect storm,” said Allen Dunlap, manager of Linden’s Propane Inc. in LaGrange. “I’ve had customers call to say we’re ripping them off, but we try to tell them it’s not us. Supplies are having to travel so far that we’re actually losing money to reduce the impact of all this on our customers.

“This is the worst winter we’ve probably seen in 40 years.”

Linden’s has taken propane deliveries from as far away as Louisiana in recent weeks due to a propane gas shortage caused by a series of record-breaking cold spells.

“That’s three to four days turnaround on a truck,” Dunlap said. “And that’s one truck a day where we used to get two to three a day.”

Dunlap declined to discuss specific prices for customers, but said Linden has charged $2.50 a gallon for delivered propane in the past. It recently purchased out-of-state propane “that cost upwards of $3.50 to $4. One load was just under $5 a gallon,” he said.

In an emailed response to questions, Simon Bowman, AmeriGas manager for investor relations and treasury, declined to comment on local propane prices as they “change by the day.”

Current high prices are due to a combination of factors including a 60 percent jump in wholesale propane prices over a year ago, greater demand over the past month, and higher transportation costs due to supplies being brought from out-of-state.

Gov. John Kasich declared an energy emergency Jan. 18. That allows propane delivery drivers to be on the road longer in order to pick up and return out-of-state shipments of propane gas to Ohioans who depend on the fuel to heat their homes.

That order has since been extended to midnight Feb. 26 by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Transportation Department.

Officials in more than a dozen states including Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia took similar steps to try to ease the propane shortage for the bulk of the country’s 14 million-plus propane users, according to figures from the Propane Education & Research Council.

“It’s been pretty rough all around,” Dunlap said.

While the record-breaking cold has put millions of furnaces in overdrive in recent weeks, the propane used to heat them was in short supply in the Midwest as far back as October when the fuel was used at much higher-than-normal levels to dry corn, beets and other crops left drenched by a very wet harvest season.

“Supplies were not all that plentiful even then,” Dunlap said, adding major amounts of propane gas are typically produced in the spring and summer as a byproduct of natural gas processing and petroleum refining.

“Most refineries shut down during November, December and January to replace parts and valves and perform other work,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap serves as chairman of the board of the Ohio Propane Gas Association, a statewide organization of propane dealers.

“It’s not an easy fix,” Dunlap said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

  • Toad

    mr bushs fault

  • just saying

    I think there are a lot of us that are going to be looking into other propane suppliers,I know myself I really don’t want to give linden propane another penny, all I have had is trouble in the last couple years with them and they do have different prices for different people, and a lot of charges for this and that and then some

    • Carol Smith-Hollows

      You are so right. It got worse after the owner passed away.

  • Razorback Twou

    Pay for your choices and shut the F up.

    • It has to stop

      Really? A little harsh don’t ya think.

    • Carol Smith-Hollows

      I did not choose Linden’s. We with Propane have no choices. There is no Apples to Apples with Propane. We have no natural gas here. If the consumers are being gauged, it is wrong anyway. Remember your comment when you fill up your gas tank in your car.

  • SniperFire

    How’s that War on Coal workin out for ya?

    • Zen Grouch

      Judging from the way things are going and recent polls it looks like you and yours are losing that war.

  • Zen Grouch

    Dunlap missed out on some of the real reasons propane is in short supply.

    The lines once used to transport it are now used for more abundant methane gas, forcing more propane to be transported by tanker trucks.

    Then there is the higher than normal amount of propane being exported to other countries that are willing to pay the high costs.

    That thing about refineries shutting down during the winter months sounds like bull hockey.

    • Simon Jester

      Surely it has nothing to do with demand exceeding supply?

      • Zen Grouch

        If demand exceeded supply you’d be lookin’ at paying thirty bucks a gallon.

        • Simon Jester

          Not buying it.

          If they’re currently trucking the stuff up from a region with less demand, it makes sense. Added cost of bringing it from here to there is obvious, even if Carol homemaker doesn’t understand basic economics.

          Same way that one can’t buy rock salt for love or money. Winter has been nastier than usual, and the stock available has been used up. Current production can’t even cover municipalities, let alone everyone else wanting to buy the stuff.

          • Zen Grouch

            Do you believe the refineries shut down for seasonal repairs?

          • Simon Jester


          • Zen Grouch

            Then I’d be wasting my time arguing with you.

          • Simon Jester

            “Conspiracy is the absence of fact”, ergo, You can’t prove that ludicrous claim, and since I won’t just accept your nonsense, we’re at an impasse?

            That’s as bad as Bush Jr controlling oil prices and the weather.

          • Simon Jester

            Or do you really think that refineries are perpetual motion machines requiring no maintenance? Come on man, take Ford as a local example. They’re down for weeks at a time for just that. ( Granted, it would probably be less time if they didn’t have to play the Union’s games, but that’s their problem)

          • Zen Grouch

            Having worked in the oilfields of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas along with a couple refineries in Louisiana, I believe I have a pretty good idea of how they operate.

            Anyone who claims (as above in the story) that refineries shut down for months at a time for seasonal maintenance is showing their ignorance of petroleum refineries.

            Come on… use some common sense. If the refineries shut down for 3 months at a time, where would we get our gasoline from? Where are the shortages of methane gas and chemicals used in the plastics manufacturing processes?

            What the national news said about the pipelines being used to move more methane, thus restricting the propane flow, rings of the truth.

          • Zen Grouch

            I don’t know which “ludicrous claim” you’re talking about. I was just passing on what I heard on the national news the night before.

            Besides, it sounds more conspiratorial for the owners of the oil refineries to get together and decide to do planned maintenance that is going to bring down the refineries just when the demand for propane is peaking out.

  • Toad

    just use electricty

    • Toad

      good idea toad

  • Matthew Gerhart

    I’m new to the propane game, looking for some insight.. I have an Amerigas tank. but if I were to purchase my own tank I can get fuel from anyone??? and I found a website with wholesale and residential prices is this what the company’s use also, or do they make there own prices per say. it gives the price of $3.73per lbs as of last week. I understand there’s other fees involved but wondering were they get there price just for the fuel alone??

    • Tammy Forrest

      Pre-buy in oct. its a little to late to pre-buy now. I can tell you its saving my husband and I lots of money.

  • KZ14

    Thank God for heating oil, it has more BTU’S per gallon at the same price and I can get it tomorrow if I needed it.

    • Simon Jester

      Buy as much as you want when it’s cheap, store it, then laugh at the propane market price.